Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Customer Is Always Right - - - Not!

This reminds me of the time some guy tried to correct me when he asked for a physics book on a particular topic and I didn't give him the answer he liked.

(I don't remember exactly how it went but basically he was using a physics term to mean something slightly more narrow than it actually meant and I was answering as I would to any other random person - which means I was broadening the topic more than I would if I was back in physics lab.)

I tried to be nice at first, but when he flat out told me I was wrong - in slightly condescending tone of voice - I explained that I had a degree in physics*, not so gently corrected him, and explained that I was answering the question assuming the common usage of the word, not the way physicists use it. Then I explained that we don't carry books that specific; he would have to order a textbook from us. (duh)

Generally, though, I get the sexist stuff less often because I work in the kid's section; in fact I'd imagine the guys get it almost often as we do in the bookstore - especially if they work in the kid's section.

In other customer news, I had a lady ask me today about a book that I was never able to find, even in the computer. Why not, you ask? Well, this was the information she gave me: it was about the wedding industry, it was new, it was an expose, she heard about it....somewhere.

Which works if you have google, but inside the store I don't get to use google.

Now, normally I'd just feel bad and hate our lame search engine and our lack of internet access. But this was one of those times that I don't feel bad because this was one of those times when I had the bookseller's equivalent of a backseat driver. (Backseat bookseller?)

As I'm searching she asks:

"Can you search by topic?"

(Um, yeah, just did. A couple of them, actually. I got squat.) "I can search by keyword. You said it was new?"


"Do you know how new?"

It just came out.

(Oh, that's helpful.) - I do a broader keyword search, but this time only searching books published in the last six months. Again, I get squat. - "Did you read about it in a newspaper?"

(mumbles about hearing about it everywhere) "Can't you just browse new books?"

"No, not for weddings. We don't have a New Release section for Weddings. But I can narrow the search by publication date. I just did that. You don't remember any specific publication you heard about it in?"

"No. Can you look up books that are in the news recently?"

"I can, but only by specific publication. There's no overall list." (Which is why I'm trying to get you to give a good guess about which newspaper/magazine/show - doofus. Because the major ones are giving me squat.)

"Can't you just look in weddings?"

(I'm noticeably annoyed by now. And so is she.) "I could, but the problem with this book is that it could listed under a bunch of different topics. It may be under Weddings, or it may be under Business or Current Affairs.** You don't remember anything else about it?"



"Well, thank you."


Needless to say we were both lying through our teeth.

*which of course led to "what are you doing working here?" grrr....

** turns out it's under Sociology. Which makes sense when you know that it's not just an expose on the wedding industry but also an analysis of why the wedding industry has grown to the size it has and what this means about all of us. And Sociology doesn't have a New Release bay/shelf either.

Seriously, people, this is why when your bookseller asks you questions, you should respond with actual answers, not annoying questions that amount to "have you thought of doing this obvious thing, idiot retail worker?"

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